Two magical things happened today. Both made me cry.
1. I did something I never thought I could do.
I did a presentation. I was so scared I couldn’t breathe, even though I spoke for less than 15 minutes and it was over Zoom. Hubby was apparently watching me through the glass panes on the living room door and took the below photo (had I known I would have gone loco in a supreme way, haha!). Yes, that’s a bucket, because I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t vomit. It also didn’t help it was 30 degrees and the sun is on the double windows all day – had a fan on full blast and tried to close the thin curtains but was still sweating like crazy. And the stress of it all… Let’s just say I had a meltdown leading up to it. I was paired up with a course mate so my bit was only going to take 7-ish minutes. He’d reassured me that if I freaked he’d just take over. It didn’t turn out that way. His wifi gave up and so I did almost the whole thing, bar for the couple of minutes he managed to get back on before once again getting disconnected. Well. I knew what’d happen (except for my team mate falling off Zoom) and I lived. But it was still something I did for the first time and something I’ve been too terrified to do in all my 44 years. I’ve turned down jobs because of it and at uni I convinced tutors to give me extra written work to escape having to talk in front of people.
Despite nearly giving up and running away – old habits die hard – it all worked out. And in amongst all the dread, fear and anxiety that had me under siege, several of the lovely people I’m studying with had sent little messages because they know I struggle so much with this and they therefore knew I was in bits over it. In a way, I think the universe had my back, along with the lovely group I’m with. Had this been in the classroom I’m not sure I’d got myself there. I’d like to think so but the panic and terror I felt was over doing it over Zoom so God knows.
I lived. And it was OK.
2. Someone handed me their heart to hold.
Bloody hell, I make it all sound so dramatic, don’t I? But these miracles happened for one reason only: I am sober. An old friend reached out because she is struggling like I did. I read the message in the car and a couple of tears trickled down my cheeks. A mixture of love, gratitude, admiration and sorrow. Love and gratitude because I feel honoured to be the person she feels she can approach. Admiration because I know only warriors can summon this kind of courage. Sorrow because she is hurting in this way. But there is also another couple of components in that mixture: hope and excitement because I know that there is a way out and I know what awaits her on the other side when she finds it.
Despite all I know about addiction and all the fellow addicts I have met along the way, perhaps old stereotypes live somewhere in my subconscious. Must be, because I found myself thinking oh my God, HER? But she’s so TOGETHER and SMART and all these other incredible things. Isn’t that crazy, that even now, this can even enter my mind? It’s one of the shitty things about addiction – we think there is something wrong with us, that we ended up this way because we are terrible or “less than” people somehow. Absolutely that was my first thought when I went to AA meetings. Almost exactly the words my own father said to me once when we talked about it.
“But you’re so SMART!”
I replied. Said I’ll always stand with her. Always be here for her. I don’t know where it will go or what she will choose and that’s not my business anyway. She hasn’t said “I’m an alcoholic” and so I’ll just honestly and openly share whatever she may ask about and point her to all sources of help I know of. AA of course and everywhere else I’ve found members of my tribe. Whether she wants to stop or cut down or just air her secret, I’ll stand by and hold her heart with steady and safe hands. I will share my stuff if she asks me to and I won’t decide for her what her path is. That’s what my tribe has taught me and I will do my best to honour this.
I didn’t know who to turn to. And whilst it’s not everyone’s choice to be loud about their recovery in the way I’ve chosen to be, this is precisely why I am. I don’t care if the world judges me for being open or if anyone wants to attach stigma to addiction or shame me. One person overheard (or saw, rather, via Facebook) and that’s all that matters. That’s all that’ll ever matter.
Now for the questions, dear tribe of sober warriors – what do you do when someone asks for help? I’m guessing just being there will make a difference (carrying this around is hell, as we all know so being able to talk to someone obviously lightens the load a little). I will suggest AA because regardless of whether it’s the right path in the end for that person, it’s a bloody great start. I don’t want to overwhelm her – Christ, she’s just opened the lid a little so I don’t think going in and stirring a big spatula around is the right strategy – and I don’t want her to feel she has to adopt a label or be pushed into any promises or rules or commitments. I want to show her I’ll just walk beside her when she wants me to, no strings attached. What do you think?
Today I’m not going to drink.